U.N. en­voy: Abuses con­tinue in Burma de­spite re­forms

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - REUTERS

ran­goon, burma — Hu­man rights abuses are still oc­cur­ring in Burma de­spite government re­forms, a U.N. rights en­voy said Satur­day, cit­ing what he de­scribed as the ar­bi­trary ar­rest and tor­ture of al­leged eth­nic Kachin rebels.

To­mas Ojea Quin­tana, U.N. spe­cial rap­por­teur on the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in Burma, was speak­ing at the end of a five-day mis­sion to the coun­try, where Pres­i­dent Thein Sein has pushed through re­forms since the end of mil­i­tary rule in 2011.

“While this process of re­form is con­tin­u­ing in the right di­rec­tion, there are sig­nif­i­cant hu­man rights short­com­ings that re­main un­ad­dressed,” Quin­tana told re­porters. He called for ur­gent ac­tion be­fore the prob­lems be­came en­trenched.

The quasi-civil­ian government has agreed to cease-fires with most of the eth­nic rebel groups fight­ing for au­ton­omy. But fight­ing flared up in Kachin state in June 2011, and the con­flict es­ca­lated late last year when the mil­i­tary used airstrikes to thwart what it said was rebel ag­gres­sion.

Peace talks were held across the bor­der in China this month, and Quin­tana said he was en­cour­aged by that devel­op­ment. He also wel­comed the government’s de­ci­sion to al­low a U.N. hu­man­i­tar­ian con­voy ac­cess to ar­eas con­trolled by the rebels.

But, he added, “I am con­cerned about the on­go­ing prac­tice of ar­bi­trary ar­rest and tor­ture dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tion by the mil­i­tary of Kachin men ac­cused of be­long­ing to the Kachin In­de­pen­dence Army.”

An­other area, Rakhine state, suf­fered two bouts of deadly sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence last year be­tween eth­nic Rakhine Bud­dhists and Mus­lim Ro­hingyas. About 120,000 peo­ple are liv­ing in camps, ac­cord­ing to Quin­tana. Although con­di­tions had im­proved since his last visit, in Au­gust, the big­ger Mus­lim camps still lack ad­e­quate health care, he said, and ha­rass­ment of med­i­cal staff by Rakhine Bud­dhists was one of the rea­sons.

The government needs to ad­dress the prob­lem of free­dom of move­ment in the camps, he said, re­mark­ing that one “felt more like a prison than a camp.”

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